Localization often starts only after the source text is finished, leaving translators with no opportunity to improve the finished source. Working with the wrong localization partner can lead to a garbage-in, garbage-out scenario. This article- offered by a seasoned translator- attempts to proactively influence writers to improve documentation quality for all end-users, international and local. Having translated countless documents, she suggests that the following recommendations be taken into consideration.
Use consistent terminology to minimize user confusion, and save on translation research time. When referring to a specific term or software GUI item, use the same wording throughout the documentation and between the GUI and documentation. Review the entire document after every update of the product.
Use consistent style for similar and repetitive procedures, and in headings, to enhance documentation clarity and structure. Doing so streamlines the text in a way that allows for maximum leverage from the Translation Memory. For example, if the heading style “Creating a file” is used, follow with “Selecting a profile”- not “Selection of a profile”.
Be consistent with punctuation, capitalization and formatting, in order to enhance the “professional aspect” of text. Consistently use documentation templates, and capitalize or bold all references to GUI items. Avoiding ambiguity helps the reader understand whether a term is generic, or refers to a specific item in the GUI.
Developing a style guide and obeying it will do wonders for the quality of source and localized text. Furthermore, with the advent of controlled-language tools that plug into your authoring tools, writers can now ensure that the source is consistent and less verbose.
Keep it simple
The use of clear, straightforward language and short sentences is appreciated not only by the translators but also by the end-users. What may be clear to the author may not necessarily be clear to the reader. A good example of this is the use of dashes for word associations. “White cable connector” can mean a white-cable connector or a white cable-connector. Limit the number of nouns that qualify a noun. Repeat nouns instead of using backward-pointing pronouns. Whenever possible, use the “of” form instead of the possessive.
Have your text reviewed and edited by a colleague who is not familiar with the product, but understands your style guide requirements. Doing so will not only help translators convert your work to all required languages; it will also assist end-users, who depend on you to understand the product.
Avoid the use of culture-specific references that an international reader might not be familiar with. After translation, they may not convey their intended meaning.
Include a glossary
A glossary at the end of the manual will help clarify key terms and concepts covered in the documentation, particularly when there are product-specific terms or deviations from common standards. This allows the reader to associate those vendor/product-specific terms with established concepts he or she is already familiar with.
Never forget rule #1
Always write with all end-users in mind– local and international.